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Focus on Customer Experience: Conducting Pain Points Research
Monday, March 27, 2017 6:35 AM

David England, Senior Research Analyst, Cornerstone Credit Union League

A “pain point” is anything that causes member annoyance or dissatisfaction that your credit union can solve. Pain points can create silent defectors. Members are more likely to defect due to poor service than they are to stay for great service (or even great rates).

One in four members is likely to say something affirmative about their positive service experience to other people, while nearly two-thirds are likely to speak negatively about a poor service experience to others. How many customers actually voice a complaint to the company? For years, research has indicated that only 2 percent to 10 percent of customers will actually express their pain point directly to the company.

Too many members will not complain to your credit union about such problems. Why?

  • They're too busy and will not take the time.
  • It's a hassle/annoyance.
  • They don't see any value/benefit in making the complaint.           
  • They don't feel the credit union will do anything about it.
  • They can get what they want somewhere else.

A pain points study will focus on the “problems” members are having with their experience with your credit union. A pain points study is not a customer satisfaction survey or general membership survey. It will focus on identifying and seizing opportunities for improvement.

Identify Pain Points, Prioritize Them, and Develop a Plan

Complaints can negatively impact members’ likelihood of recommending or purchase intent. Members whose problems are left partially resolved are not only less likely to repurchase or recommend, but they will spread the negative feedback via word of mouth and social media.

Conversely, positive handling of complaints will increase retention, likelihood of recommending, and purchase intent. As you can see in the chart below, pain points voiced but not positively handled erode a customer’s will to do business with you. While the scores from those with no pain points are quite high, it's interesting to see that scores are higher for those who experienced a pain point that was positively handled.

Had a Service Complaint? Handling was + or - ?

Percent Retention Intent

Percent Likely to Recommend

No complaint (50 percent)*



Made complaint/positive handling (12.5 percent)



Made complaint/neutral or negative handling (12.5 percent)



Had a problem but did not voice it (25 percent)*



 * Note: One-half had no complaint. Of those with a complaint, one-half did not voice a Pain Point. 

Adoption of policies and procedures that render customer experience improvements are often self-funding, building an explicit link of value to the credit union’s future. The idea is to find the issues that matter most to your customers and do those things better than everyone else. Some common pain points include:

  • Contacting customer service multiple times for the same problem;
  • Being placed on hold for a long time;
  • Repeating the same information to multiple people;
  • Speaking to someone who is not knowledgeable enough to answer your questions;
  • The company delivered something different than promised; and/or
  • Unfriendly employees.

A pain points study will deliver a list of issues for the credit union to work on. You'll have to analyze each problem and its possible solutions while keeping members’ perspectives in the forefront of your mind. This will help you focus on the right issues. Then, do what you already do well—serve your members.